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Henare O’Keefe: A new Keep New Zealand Beautiful hero

Henare O’Keefe: A new Keep New Zealand Beautiful hero

“As we look around our undoubtedly beautiful district, we must think about all the spaces our children are growing up in; they need to be proud of the place they are growing up in; the place that nurtures them”, says Hastings District councillor Henare O’Keefe.

He has a long history of working to improve the lot of Hastings people, both physically - through encouraging pride and care in the community, and through sharing his love of the people and place.

His lifetime of work for his community across a raft of sectors has been recognised many times, and now he has been named Keep New Zealand Beautiful’s Local Hero. The new award has been added to the 15 issued each year which recognise council, business and individual efforts to improve sustainability and demonstrate environmental excellence.

Henare O’Keefe said helping individuals take pride in the community helped to encourage pride in work, families and homes.

Right from his first term in Council Mr O’Keefe got involved with educating youngsters to take care of ‘their place’: “To look after it; take pride in it. Our kids of today are much more aware of their environment and we need to foster and nurture that”.

“If you get the children interested then they carry that on for life. I made up a little song about a ‘naughty litterbug’ and the kids loved it.”
It helped that he already had a very good relationship with the schools and students from involvement before his election to Council; the children recognised him and lapped up the song and the message.

Environment – urban and natural – is everything he says. “You just have to look at how good taking a walk in the bush or sitting by a river makes you feel. We can’t always get away to those places so the next best thing is to keep our urban spaces, where we live, as peaceful, tranquil and cared for as we possibly can.”

He said the fruits of the labour put in over the last decade to encourage Hastings’ youngsters to get involved was bearing fruit – reflected by the Keep New Zealand Beautiful’s sustainable schools award going to Flaxmere’s Morgan Educare. “We are very proud. These little ones are right into this stuff – probably not so much the solar panel technology, but definitely the vegetable gardens and the worm farm.”

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